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“The Spy Who Loved Books”, a posthumous novel that John le Carré did not want to publish during his lifetime

“The Spy Who Loved Books”, a posthumous novel that John le Carré did not want to publish during his lifetime

A few years before his death, John le Carré made his youngest son (writer Nick Harkaway) promise to finish his work if he died and left it unfinished. It wasn’t necessary. The spy who loved books it contains all of Carré, from the conciseness of the style to the agility of the plot. After the enigmatic first chapter, the story begins in a small resort in Suffolk.

Former City young wolf Julian Lawndsley left finance to take over a corner bookshop. One evening, a man in a camel-colored raincoat, a felt hat and an umbrella enters the bookstore, visibly more inclined to question his new owner than to choose his next reading. Edward Avon claims to have been friends with Julian’s late father. Polish immigrant married to a “Great English Lady”, a stranger with a much more developed literary knowledge than Julian’s seems concerned, perhaps a little too much, about the traffic in the bookstore.

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“Suppose you install […] something so innovative, so attractive, so original that every literate or potential customer in the area would be talking about it. » The Republic of Literature project seduces Julian, who decides to investigate this mysterious new associate. At the same time, Stewart Proctor is waiting for a phone call. In charge of the security of MI5-MI6 agents, Proctor lives an ordinary life when not mobilized by a crisis situation. The phone rings in his back kitchen. He is entrusted with a new mission involving a former service agent.

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Opponent of Brexit

Started right after Such a delicate truth (Prague), published in 2013. ­The spy who loved books ­napped in the master’s office. Why? Nick Harkaway presents a hypothesis in the afterword: representation “an unprecedented feature for a le Carré novel”, a book “describes a service shared between several political factions” in which “British spies, like many of us, have lost confidence in what their country represents and their true identity”.

In other words, flaws that the former agent-turned-writer always refused to point out. Painting an unflattering portrait of the “Circus” (le Carré’s nickname for Her Majesty’s Secret Service), this spy presents inconsistencies and shortcomings, mirroring those countries soon to vote for Brexit – something Carré strongly opposed. A novel that may have hit too close to the target, and will undoubtedly reach it. Goodbye, Monsieur le Carré.

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